Ruler's Power and Its Representation in Medieval Central Europe (10th – 13th Century)

Rex eris, si recte facias: si non facias, non eris. Panovnícka moc a jej reprezentácia v stredovekej strednej Európe (10. - 13. storočie)

The study deals with the issue of royal and princely power and its representation in medieval Central Europe region between the 10th and 13th century. The main focus is placed on the royal power in Hungary, Poland and Bohemia. It briefly deals with the theories of ruler's power in the medieval Occident, mapping its origins in Roman and Biblical political thinking. Some of the main characteristics which shaped these theories were most prominently the concepts of ruler's sacrality, belief in his supernatural powers and notion of his indispensability in the medieval society. We tried to outline the evolution of the royal and princely power in medieval Hungary, Poland and Bohemia with an emphasis on its understanding and interpretation in contemporary sources. Although many of the features were common for all three studied countries, each of them showed important peculiarities based on different historical and cultural developments.
The main premises, from which the conclusions of the study derive, are as follows: the ruler's power had to be publicly demonstrated repeatedly to communicate theoretical postulates through the use of ceremonial behaviour. In the course of time we defined three fundamental observations. Firstly, the rituals of royalty served as means of legitimization of princely power. Secondly, the examples of ritualized behaviour must be followed in two ways. On the one hand as real political events and on the other hand as strong narrative weapon and a tool for interpretation in contemporary sources. Thirdly, a certain learning process can be observed in respect to adapting and creating ways of symbolical and ritual communication.
The thorough examination of written sources allows us to decode several main characteristics. The medieval political thought was based on a corpus of virtues. The cardinal ones were order, peace, piety and justice (ordo, pax, pietas, iustitia). Very often also clemency and mercifulness accompanied them. In short, we are able to state, that each ritual was connected to a certain virtue(s), and these virtues were bound with public roles (functions, tasks) in the society. The characteristics and virtues of medieval rulers were to be found in parallel acting and showed strong influential tendencies. They always reflected its ethical and moral rooting in Christian thought. Thanks to these features, we can observe the medieval ruler in all his facets: as an inaugurated, arriving, punishing, humble, merciful, cheering, leaving, majestic ruler etc. If we are to determine the most typical situations when these features were to be observed, we can talk about four cases: festive events, rites de passages, times of crisis, legitimizations of power.

How to Cite: 

Zupka, Dušan. Ruler's Power and Its Representation in Medieval Central Europe (10th – 13th Century). In Forum Historiae, 2014, Vol. [node:field_ro_n_k], No. 2, pp. 202-226. ISSN 1337-6861